157. Brush Up on Poison Safety After Brake Fluid Scare

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I woke up feeling incredibly fortunate this morning after a dose of drama and a trip to Good Shepherd Hospital’s Emergency Room last night.  It all started while I was sending a quick email in my house late yesterday as my young kids played in the back yard.

My 2-year-old son, Billy, appeared at my side with bubbles in his mouth trying to spit out something that tasted bad.  His breath smelled like gasoline and I panicked when I ran outside to find my 3-year-old daughter collecting flowers and leaves in this open and almost empty container…

The kids found the bottle on a ledge in our garage.  Though Billy was acting normal, not knowing whether and how much brake fluid he ingested (and I’m cringing as I write this), I called poison control and was advised to take him straight to the emergency room.

When we sat down with the triage nurse, she called poison control.  Because I had called them before leaving our home, they already had our information on hand and shared details with the nurse about the chemicals in that bottle.  My heart dropped when the nurse told me Billy would probably be admitted to the hospital so they could monitor him overnight for kidney failure.  But a blood test proved he was ok and, within a few hours, the doctor had released us and Billy was safe at home. I, on the other hand, am now suffering from a major case of parental guilt.  So my antidote (my self-prescribed penance) is to brush up on a few tips for poison safety.

I discovered these after a quick Google search for “What to do when your child swallows brake fluid”.  (Gulp!)  Five tips jumped out at me (from this website) as things to never forget:

  1. Never leave potentially poisonous household products unattended while in use.   Many exposures occur when an adult takes a moment to answer the telephone or doorbell.
  2. Remember that there is no such thing as a ‘safe zone’ when it comes to poisoning.   National statistics indicate that 41 percent of poisoning accidents occur in the kitchen, followed by 26 percent in the garage or basement, 21 percent in the bathroom and 12 percent in the bedroom.   Interestingly, many poisonings occur during a family’s move to a new home, when potentially hazardous items are on the floor or easy to reach.
  3. Avoid taking medicine in front of children, as they tend to copy the actions of adults.   Also, never refer to medicine as ‘candy’ and always follow exact dosage directions in giving children medications.
  4. Store pesticides in a locked cabinet or garden shed.   A recent survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that almost half (47 percent) of all households with children under the age of 5 had at least one pesticide stored in an unlocked cabinet and less than four feet off the ground.
  5. Know the botanical names of all plants inside and outside your home.   Some plants and flowers can be toxic if eaten.   If you don’t know the name of a plant, have it identified at the nearest gardening center in your area.

To be proactive and get regular reminders about poison safety tips, I found and “Liked” the Illinois Poison Center’s Facebook page, which you’ll find by clicking HERE.

I also downloaded the Poison Control Center App for my iPhone which allows you to contact the center with the click of a button.  You’ll find that app by clicking HERE and you can reach them directly at this phone number:  1-800-222-1222.

In 2011, the Illinois Poison Center handled 86,680 calls to their hotline.

About 50 percent of the poison exposure calls handled by the IPC last year involved children ages 5 and under.

For me, the moral of the story is this:  Never let work, emails, the phone or doorbell distract you from watching your kids – even for one second.  And, even if you’ve childproofed your home, periodically review where all toxic materials may have been moved to and don’t forget to take time to talk with your spouse about plans for poison safety.

Now that it’s a new day, I’ll admit that I’m a little a LOT more paranoid.  But at least I’m reminded that no job, no requests, no deadlines, NOTHING IN THE WORLD is more important to me than the safety of my kids.

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